FACTBOX: What we know and do not know about the coronavirus

A poster advising about measures to protect from the coronavirus is seen at the entrance to a residential compound in Beijing.

A poster advising about measures to protect from the coronavirus is seen at the entrance to a residential compound in Beijing.

AFP/Greg Baker

BEIJING - The spread of a new coronavirus in mainland China and to more than two dozen countries and regions beyond is alarming health experts.

Here is what we know -- and do not know -- about the virus:

HOW DANGEROUS IS THE VIRUS?

A scientist is at work in the VirPath university laboratory as they try to find an effective treatment against the new coronavirus.

File: A scientist is at work in the VirPath university laboratory as they try to find an effective treatment against the new coronavirus.

AFP/Jeff Pachoud

The coronavirus family of viruses includes the common cold and more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Many of those with the new virus who have died had pre-existing medical conditions or were elderly, those with weakened immune systems.

READ: Coronavirus spreading in China and beyond

Coronavirus infections have a wide range of symptoms, including fever, cough and breathing difficulties.

Statistics from China indicate that about 2 percent of people infected with the new virus have died, suggesting it may be deadlier than seasonal flu but less deadly than SARS, which killed about 10 percent of infected individuals. The MERS outbreak in 2012 had a fatality rate of about 35 percent.

Scientists have labelled the new virus 2019-nCoV.

HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED AND HOW CAN IT BE PREVENTED?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people frequently wash hands.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people frequently wash hands.

AFP/Jason Redmond

The virus can be transmitted via droplets when an infected person breathes out, coughs or sneezes, and can also spread via contaminated surfaces such as door handles.

Experts have said it is more easily transmitted than the SARS virus.

INFOGRAPHIC: Protect yourself from Coronavirus

The incubation period is up to 14 days. People may be able to infect others before symptoms appear.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people frequently wash hands, cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and avoid close contact with those who are sick.

WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM?

The coronavirus is believed to have originated in a food market in Wuhan.

The coronavirus is believed to have originated in a food market in Wuhan.

AFP/Dale De La Rey

It is believed to have originated in a food market in Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife.

READ: How the new coronavirus developed

Health experts think it may have originated in bats and then passed to humans, possibly via another species.

DO FACE MASKS HELP?.

A poster advising about measures to protect from the coronavirus is seen at the entrance to a residential compound in Beijing.

A poster advising about measures to protect from the coronavirus is seen at the entrance to a residential compound in Beijing.

AFP/Greg Baker

"We recommend the use of masks for people who have symptoms ... because the virus transmits through droplets," says medical expert Sylvie Briand.

But they do not guarantee protection against infection.

READ: To mask or not to mask: Confusion spreads over coronavirus protection

"For people who don't have symptoms, the mask in fact is not useful," Briand says.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says face masks are not required for the general public.

IS THERE ANY TREATMENT?

A scientific staff member works in a secure laboratory, researching the coronavirus, at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar.

File: The COVID-19 virus was found in a 45-year-old Lebanese woman who had travelled from Qom in Iran, he said.

 
AFP/Seyllou

There is no vaccine or known effective treatments, according to the WHO.

Chinese scientists were able to identify the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus and shared it publicly.

READ: Africa mobilises against coronavirus as fears mount

Scientists in Australia have developed a lab-grown version of the virus, a step toward creating a vaccine.

Drugmakers around the globe expect to begin testing experimental vaccines on humans in about three months.

WHERE HAS IT SPREAD?

Members of the Airport Medical Service take temperature readings from staff members with a digital thermometer shown on a display at Budapest's Liszt Ferenc Airport.

Members of the Airport Medical Service take temperature readings from staff members with a digital thermometer shown on a display at Budapest's Liszt Ferenc Airport.

AFP/Attila Kisbenedek

About 99 percent of the more than 30,000 cases have been reported in mainland China. Nearly 230 cases have been reported in about 27 other countries and regions, a Reuters tally based on official statements shows.

Over 600 people have died in China, most in and around the city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged late last year. One person has died in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines, both following visits to Wuhan.

READ: Hong Kong reports first death of coronavirus patient

Singapore, Thailand and Japan have the most cases outside of China

It took the new coronavirus 48 days to infect the first 1,000 people. It took SARS 130 days to infect 1,000 people. It took MERS 2.5 years to infect 1,000 people.

WHAT ARE AUTHORITIES DOING?

A disinfection worker of Budapest's Liszt Ferenc Airport of arrives with a sprayer machine. The international airport prepared special control measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

File: A disinfection worker of Budapest's Liszt Ferenc Airport of arrives with a sprayer machine. The international airport prepared special control measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

AFP/Attila Kisbenedek

The Chinese government has virtually locked down the central province of Hubei, home to 60 million people, and its capital Wuhan.

China is facing mounting isolation as airlines suspend flights to its cities.

The United States and Australia have banned entry to foreign nationals who have recently travelled to China.

READ: HIV drugs touted as weapon in war on coronavirus

Many countries have evacuated their citizens from Hubei and are putting them in quarantine or isolation upon return.

The WHO has not recommended travel or trade curbs with China.

Source
Reuters